Reviews

Review: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

I walked up to the edge of the parking lot and watched the cars go by, catching little glimpses of the drivers’ faces. They all stared ahead at the road, everyone in such a rush to get to their destination, barely registering things on the outside before they blew on by. I wondered if they were going on errands, or rushing to hot dates. I wondered what they thought of when they saw me. Did they see a girl? A boy? Could they tell something was wrong?

Since the new year began, I’ve been thinking about reading more LGBTQIA+ books, but I hadn’t thought to consider which books from the spectrum I would pick up. In the back of my mind, I knew what “intersex” meant, from having been taught about it last term in my Gender and Society course, but before then, I had never come across the term nor had I bothered to look it up. Coincidentally, then, I found None of the Above on a Goodreads list for YA contemporaries, and saw it fit to start learning from somewhere more personal than an arbitrary Google search. Here is its summary:

n_aWhat if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

What None of the Above succeeds in doing, in my opinion, is being educational at the same time as it stresses the subjectivity of dealing with one’s identity as intersex. I liked that Gregario made this about a regular teenager, a girl who had friends and popularity and a boyfriend, who discovered an aspect about herself and learned about it – and in the process, taught me, the reader, about it – while still maintaining the thoughts any teenager would possess given her situation. And not only does this novel succeed in making this of great importance (the battle one faces with oneself alongside other stresses like school and breakups), but it also succeeds in making the solution clear: in Kristin’s case, communicating with and forgiving her friends, talking to her father about everything, and putting aside differences, etc.

The thing is, to me, the first part of the book was quite enjoyable, because not only was it educational, but I liked to see Kristin’s growth and development into understanding herself. I liked seeing that the author put a lot of emphasis on Kristin’s mental health (her depression), the backstory of her mother’s death (as well as her father’s grief because of that) and how that played into the storyline, but some things just seemed randomly dispersed, almost thrown in like an afterthought. While I did appreciate the whole part about Kristin volunteering at the clinic, I felt that the romance that was added to the story (with Darren) took away from what I preferred seeing, which were the friendships with Gretchen and Jessica. And the whole fiasco with Vee and Faith was ridiculous to me, because in the end, Kristin forgave Faith waaay too easily. I just think it’s fair that she could have stewed a little longer. And that scene at the end, with the fight? Kristin was barely fazed, and that irritated me. Not only was it randomly tossed into the end for some final drama, but the author had put so much emphasis on a lot of important subject matters prior to that moment in the novel, and that near brush-off was weird, to say the least.

Nevertheless, None of the Above is a good read about being an intersex teenager, and perhaps that’s why Gregario had a lot happening in only 330 pages – only just finding out you’re an intersex teenager can be difficult and scattered. There’s certainly a lot going on in terms of family, friendships, and romance, so if you would like to read a book like that, I would recommend this one.

3 stars!

– W

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